Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Service of Marketing Slipups for Bud Light & Twitter

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

  Oh no 1

Is there a single soul who hasn’t felt that heart-sinking feeling of “Oh no!” after clicking on “enter” or “continue” whether they’ve inadvertently sent an email to the wrong person, allowed spell check to have its way with them or incorrectly completed an online form due to a runaway autofill function on a computer.

sendSome missteps can be avoided with a diverse marketing team—I suspect the first example occurred because decision makers were all men. Others are due to computer glitches that will happen increasingly as corporations race to market a service with insufficiently tested technology.

Don’t Take This Lightly

Budweiser ClydesdalesErica Martell sent me “Bud Light Label Snafu Teaches the Value of Proper Message Vetting,” by Christine Birkner in Marketing News Weekly. Birkner wrote: “On April 28, Leuven, Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev NV pulled Bud Light labels with the message: ‘The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night. #UpForWhatever.’ The label messaging had ignited a social media firestorm because some consumers perceived it as promoting rape culture.”

I don’t know about you but that was the first thing I thought of. The label was part of the brand’s #UpForWhatever campaign to appeal to ingratiate themselves with millennials with a devil-may-care approach to life. In addition, Bud Light created a beer festival in Crested Butte, Colo, a town they renamed “Whatever, USA.”

According to Birkner here were some of the reactions:

  • “A petition asked A-B InBev to remove the labels, stating, ‘The brand is blatantly linking their product to sexually assaulting people while under the influence of alcohol.’”
  • “The Center for Reproductive Rights tweeted: ‘So gross. Nope, definitely not #UpForWhatever.’” 
  •  “Other marketplace responses on Twitter included comments such as, ‘Budweiser execs  should be ashamed,’” and,
  • “‘Maybe I’ll drink a bunch of @budlight & then drive a bulldozer into their corporate headquarters, since I’ll be #UpForWhatever.’”
  • “Twitter users created a hashtag in response to the label: #UpForThingsIExplicitlyConsentTo.”


Bird with bugSpeaking of Twitter, in Social Media & Marketing Daily Erik Sass wrote “Whoops: Twitter Runs Ads Next to Porn.” Sass wrote that affected brands included Nielsen, Duane Reade, NBCUniversal, and Gatorade.

Sass credits Adweek, which broke the story, and continued: “The Promoted Tweets appeared in Twitter feeds that were clearly inappropriate, with profile names like ‘Daily Dick Pictures,’ helpful purveyor of all your day-to-day dick pic needs, and ‘Homemade Porn,’ which sounds nice and crafty. The naughty ad placements apparently resulted from a bug, and unsurprisingly marketers are suspending their campaigns until Twitter fixes the technical glitch.”

All male boardroomCan you share other examples of lamebrained marketing? In the Bud Light case, does it happen because the marketers are too rushed or, as I suggest above, all male? Given that Bud is now owned by a Belgium-based company, might it be an example of global marketing run amok? As for Twitter, in its rush to sell ads, did it jump the gun before its staff understood how to use the technology or was someone in the digital layout department not paying attention–simultaneously tweeting friends, perhaps?


Service of False Advertising

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Free Pizza Blackboard

Driving down the street in the small upstate NY town of Millbrook I saw the sign above. Because I was watching out for pedestrians and hoping the traffic light wouldn’t change, my eye only caught the words FREE PIZZA, which was what the restaurant wanted me to see. I had to stop because the light was now red and I then saw what else was written on the chalkboard: That what is “free” is Wifi and that their pizza is “awesome.” The sign may have been an attempt at humor but it annoyed me enough for me to change my luncheon plans that day.

DirecTVKatie Lobosco wrote about a swindle in “The FTC has charged DirecTV with fraud, claiming that it misled customers with its popular 12-month discount package,” on According to Lobosco, “The satellite company advertises a 12-month plan for as little as $19.95, but fails to make it clear that a two-year contract is required, according to the Federal Trade Commission. That means customers are getting stuck with a longer contract than they wanted. What’s worse: The package’s price jumps in the second year by between $25 and $45 per month. Customers that try to cancel early are hit with a fee of up to $480, according to the complaint.”

I recently fell for a promotion. The monthly charge is $40+ more than I thought it would be once the rental of this or that piece of essential equipment and the taxes and other fees are added in. We have a two year contract and I fully expect the price to reach the stratosphere as soon as the contract is up.

Used car salesmanI’ve written before about my grandfather who was the first to draw such chicanery to my attention when I was about eight. I saw banners touting unbelievably cheap car prices and Grandpa mumbled that those were for cars without steering wheels and brakes and that the charge would be far higher if you wanted those essentials in your car.

Laws and regulations aside, this technique is ancient, tiring and off-putting. It focuses on tricking people into immediate sales with no view to the long term. What’s nutty is that the restaurant makes good pizza and DirecTV [which we have upstate] and the company that provides a phone/TV/Internet package we now have provide quality products as well. Why do they need to stoop to such measures? Have you felt fleeced by or noticed similar shady sales practices that irritate you? Have you changed your mind about buying a product or service as a result?

Bait and switch

Service of It Must Be Good: It’s Expensive Part II

Monday, February 9th, 2015


The previous post covered wine, this one medical treatment.

What a Pill

“When patients with Parkinson’s disease received an injection described as an effective drug Getting an injectioncosting $1,500 per dose, their motor function improved significantly more than when they got one supposedly costing $100, scientists reported,” wrote Sharon Begley in “Expensive’ placebo beats ‘cheap’ one in Parkinson’s disease” on

“Underlining the power of expectations, the motor improvements, measured by a standard Parkinson’s assessment, occurred even though both injections contained only saline and no active ingredients.

“The research, said an editorial in the journal Neurology, which published it, ‘takes the study of placebo effect to a new dimension.'”

Of the dozen volunteers in the study, observed neurologist Alberto Espay, the greatest improvement happened for the eight who expected the expensive drug to be more effective. The other four, who didn’t anticipate benefits, showed little change, wrote Espay, University of Cincinnati, who led the study.

In your experience, what part of a successful treatment for illness involved the mind and what the medicine? If you pay a lot for a drug, treatment or physician, are you more confident that the results will be positive?

leaving a hospital


Service of It Must Be Good: It’s Expensive Part I

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Napa Valley vineyards 2

I came upon two examples that illustrate the belief that some maintain: If something costs a lot the service or product must be good.

Here’s the first one:

Bottoms Up!

Vindu Goel wrote about one of the most valuable grapes produced in this country, cabernet cabernet s grapessauvignon from the Napa Valley. A bottle of the wine costs $100 vs. $25-$30 for a good one from grapes grown next door in the Lake Country, he wrote.

The price, according to Goel in The New York Times, “is based more on consumers’ belief in the superiority of the region’s grapes than in the inherent quality of the liquid in the bottle.” Master sommeliers such as Emmanuel Kemiji concur. Kemiji is one of 220 master sommeliers in the world and he observed that he would “find it nearly impossible to discern the true geographic origin of a well-made cabernet.”

[A friend hated it when her dad poured cheap wine into a fancy bottle for dinner parties and she would cringe when a guest complimented him on his choice and on the wine.]

Goel’s story, “In Vino Veritas. In Napa, Deceit,” is about more than this wine. It’s about a charming con-man, Jeff Hill, Hill Wine Company, who took investors and partners to the cleaners, which the title foretells.

I have been a discount shopper since the dark age so I tend to be less of a proponent of “if it’s expensive it must be good,” and more enthusiastic about something that appears wonderful at a reasonable price. Have you found yourself falling for or appreciating wine, or something else that is expensive, simply because it costs a lot? What else?

I will share an example in the world of healthcare in my next post.

cabernet s in a glass


Service of Negative Marketing

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

elephant donkey fighting

I missed the class on the effectiveness of negative advertising which serves politicians so well even though these ads are counterintuitive. Given 30 or 60 seconds to state your case–at major cost–you’d think you’d want to tout a candidate’s great ideas, victories and accomplishments. Positive messages these days would  no doubt result in negative polling figures and goodness knows what outcome on election day.

Politicians aren’t alone.

They lived commercialHave you seen the “They Lived” automotive TV commercial? It shows a series of cars so smooshed and flattened in car accidents that they look as though they were made of the cheapest tin can material. Someone yells “They Lived” at the worker, in hardhat, who is motioning the crane holding a metal heap that once was a car into a big pile of the same, referring to the passengers. Brrrrr—gives me the shivers.

I just got off the phone with a stranger who said, “Hiya Jeanne, this is Mike Morrow from Merrill Lynch.” I thanked Mike for calling, told him I was on deadline and someone was waiting for me with which he slammed down the phone or clicked off the connection, racing to the next patsy. Result: Bad taste in my mouth. Too bad he spoke so clearly. I can hardly understand most telemarketers. A “sorry,” would have been nice.

wold cup logo USWhat about the US World Cup team coach Jurgen Klinsmann who announced, before the games, that his team wasn’t ready to win?

And then there’s CheapOair. The name makes me want to avoid everything to do with the online Internet travel agency. I’d anticipate shoddy service from them and goodness knows what from their travel partners. They might be the most responsible travel agency on the Internet and many might consider the name of this company a hoot but travel is serious business. I’m a fan of discounts and great prices, but cheap? Not so much.

Do you respond in a positive way to negative marketing? Why is it so effective? Have you noticed other examples?


puzzled look



Service of Asking the Right Questions

Monday, June 24th, 2013


Ask Me questionsI’d like to share a few questions to ask in a range of circumstances that might save you from costly mistakes in time and money. Asking the right questions will serve you far better in evaluating a vendor and ensuring a positive outcome than depending on websites that direct readers to the best ones.


Marketing StrategyWhen hiring a marketing, PR or advertising agency, ask to speak with four or five former clients. There are countless legitimate reasons a company changes vendors. The test of the character and smarts of the principals can often be found with those with whom they are no longer associated professionally.

You’ll learn if the counsel was sound and the work top quality; if the account people fit the company’s culture and how responsive they were as marketing needs changed. The fact that an agency is still in touch with its former clients—or isn’t–also says a lot.


ContractorHiring a contractor? Ask for contact information for his/her last three to five jobs. You’ll likely have a more accurate picture of the good and the bad when you call these people for recommendations than if you let the contractor make the picks. My first encounter with a contractor was disappointing and shocking because we thought we’d done our due diligence. We’d spoken with the homeowners and visited nine jobs: Three for each contender. But all the choices of jobs were the contractors’.


Booking a hotel with a lineup of ballrooms? Ask who is scheduled for the adjacent rooms and what their entertainment plans and schedules are. This became obvious one night when nobody could hear the speakers in our room because the relentlessly earsplitting band next door wouldn’t take a break even though hotel staff and event producers pleaded with this uncooperative neighbor-for-the-night.

hotel ballroomThe cocktail hour at another event took place in the generously proportioned hallway in front of the ballroom. The hotel had proposed this concept to all its clients. Trouble was the women at the event on the way to ours were dressed as southern belles, with huge hoop skirts that took up all the floor space. We had a difficult and uncomfortable time reaching our destination. The hotel should have put the belles at the end of the hallway, not near the elevator. Nobody asked.

Buying or Renting a House

Ask about weather anomalies. In North Dakota I lived on an Air Force base in the last house in a line of two family homes. Wind on our–and on all corners–was so fierce that far more snow piled up in our driveway than in anyone else’s.

I wonder how many of these questions are universal and if they would apply in any culture. Did any of them surprise you? Hope you’ll share your tips for questions to ask in these or other instances.

house in snow

Service of Cool Marketing

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer

Some companies market themselves or their products joyfully and well. I love it when they do. Two of the three I selected are no spring chickens in our flash-in-the-pan world of trends: The grocery chain was founded in 1958 and the energy bar was introduced in 1991. I don’t know how long the vintner has been in business.

I wouldn’t trade them for the world

Trader Joe’s, headquartered in Monrovia, Ca. publishes a newsletter, “Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer.” The copy is succinct and clear–perfect pockets of information for customers waiting in the checkout queue to digest.

The lines in the East 14th Street Manhattan store can be daunting, though they move fast. You have just enough time to be tempted to try Mini Organic Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, Channa Masala, Apocryphyl [sic] Pita or Dixie Peach Juice–the headlines of some of the well-written news briefs in the newsletter I picked up.

Trader Joe CheckoutI didn’t want to lose my spot–though a few of the tempting items were at hand on shelves I passed on my journey to checkout–and I plan to search out some of the other taste sensations on my next trip, especially the juice. The newsletter describes it as a blend of peach puree and apple, white grape, pear and pineapple concentrates. Trader Joe’s has carried the drink for seven years–now I know.

The company suggests you use the newsletter, printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks, as paper airplanes, wrapping paper or packing material. So wonderfully California.

Bar none

Clif BarMy friend Jim Roper treated me to three Clif Bars. He was taken by the packaging of these energy bars, pointing out the story on one of the wrappers that described the founder’s father’s influence on the product starting with its name. His dad’s name is Clifford. Gary Erickson, the founder and owner, reminisces on one label about his dad, his childhood companion and hero during hikes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Gary also explains on this and on other bars that sport the hallmark packaging why he made the 240 calorie, lightweight “nutrition for sustained energy.” A main reason was taste as he found most other energy bars reminiscent of sawdust or chalk. I agree with my friend Jim and with Gary–the Black Cherry Almond and Blueberry Crisp bars I’ve tasted were scrumptious.

Tastefully dressed

Grifone PrimitivoWhat glee when you sip something quite remarkable that comes in a stunning package and costs under $5.00–try $3.99 [in NYC]. Grifone Primitovo is a Zinfandel from Mancuria in Italy that I found in Trader Joe’s wine store. The vintner designed the label to look like something from Hermes, proving that something doesn’t have to be costly to look expensive [my fashion mantra since childhood]. Trader Joe’s recommends you “enjoy it now”–a polite way to suggest you shouldn’t treat it as it looks—don’t put it away for 10+ years.

Does it take time for a company to understand and promote itself at perfect pitch or do many “get” their personalities from the start, helping insure long-term success? What other brands or organizations do a fun or flawless job marketing their products?

perfect pitch

Service of Packaging V

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Floral Packaging

Packaging has inspired me to jot yet another post, this time inspired by some stunning simple brown bags of flower bulbs [photo above] that caught my eye on my way to buy food at Adams Fairacre Farms in Poughkeepsie. Like the sound of the first ice cream truck’s bell in spring, the images of flamboyant blossoms and simple display on a brisk day at winter’s end attracted me and no doubt many other customers.

Deceptive Packaging 1That’s the only positive packaging example today. I was dismayed by the deception of the iron-on patches made to look as though they took up the length of the paper sleeve [photo right] when in reality, they hardly Deceptive Packaging 2made it to halfway [photo left].

And while I’ve mentioned toothpaste tubes before, I have not been happy living with this heavier-than-standard gauge tube with a silver finish that, for its heft and shine, comes at a higher price. I was duped into thinking it would be better than the typical tube I’ve bought for decades. Half the time the top doesn’t close and when this happens the paste hardens when air hits it [which is a formula problem as the other paste doesn’t do this in the hours between brushings]. I need to search kitchen drawers for something long and thin to pry out the hard stuff that even countless squeezes won’t dislodge. It’s back to the standard tube for me!

Do you have any packaging praises or gripes to share?

 Crummy Packaging

Service of Launches

Monday, September 24th, 2012


In spite of lackluster economic forecasts I know of two launches last week, both made possible by a combination of intelligence, flare, diligence, hard work and technology.

You couldn’t have missed news of the iPhone 5-as much of a happening as an opportunity to upgrade–so there’s no point my going on about it except to wonder about the strategy of making millions of folks wait so long to get one.

money-in-pilesFirst weekend sales, projected in the $8 to $10 million range, prove I don’t know what I’m talking about, but if you didn’t sign up at 5 a.m. on a certain day, or spend a week waiting in line outside a store–and I always wonder how these eager buyers can afford the phone if this is how they spend their time–you’ll get the device in about a month. In Apple time won’t the iPhone 5 be old news in 30 days?

Back to last week’s launches: You may have missed the premier issue of ISLE, a striking online magazine founded by its editor, Lisa McGee, an American living in Ireland.

map-of-irelandISLE is a celebration of that magical country. It doesn’t hurt my appreciation of the magazine that on my one trip to Ireland I, too, fell in love with the Emerald, well, Isle.

McGee isn’t any old émigré. She’s a well-regarded, successful editor on this side of the pond. She has equal measures of visual, styling and writing abilities in addition to a nose for what people want to see and know. ISLE–and what inspires it–is her palette and she’s a Vuillard [Jean-Édouard Vuillard is one of my favorite artists].

Her columns range from “Product Isle” and “Blog Isle” to “News Isle.” I was always covetous of the products McGee chose for House Beautiful Magazine and “Product Isle” doesn’t disappoint. My favorite: Jenny Walsh’s turquoise Cuckoo Clock.

There are surprises among the blogs she highlights: One is written by a Mexican cook in Ireland.



If you need a visual vacation, visit her coverage and photos of Inch House Country House and Restaurant-it’s actually in North Tipperary-or the seaside town of Dunfanaghy. Please don’t ask me to pronounce it but I’d love to go. As a craft lover I was intrigued to read about the 10 studios in Ceardlann an Spideal.

What about you: Have you been nurturing a new business or product idea? If you are bursting with an idea will you launch regardless of the economy? I can’t tell you how the iPhone 5 works but think that the first issue of ISLE is a keeper-don’t you?  


Service of a Name

Monday, July 9th, 2012


If I bought Bloomingdale’s or Macys, would I change the name to B’s or M’s or at all?

I have trouble remembering the name of NYC bridges when the city fathers and mothers name them after somebody instead of leaving them as I’ve known them–Triboro now Robert F. Kennedy; 59th Street now Ed Koch. The same with buildings: I still think “Pan Am” when others mention MetLife.

wall-street-journal-logo1So I stopped to write this post when I learned that Rupert Mudoch is considering changing the name of The Wall Street Journal to WSJ. Is he that enamoured of Tweets?

I know about shortening names. Much of my American family called me JM and then many on the French side did and in first grade, I chose Jeannie instead of Jeanne-Marie because I hated being called “Gee-Anne Mary.” The mouthful, pronounced correctly or not, was so much longer than anyone else’s name. But I wasn’t a brand with an internationally recognizable logo.

pollingIn The New York Times’ “Behind the Scenes, Behind the Lines” column, Christine Haughney wrote “Murdoch Isn’t the First to Consider Renaming The Wall Street Journal.” The history, according to Haughney: “In 1946, a Princeton, N.J., polling firm concluded that that name was a handicap to the newspaper’s growth, and no part of the name was spared. As recounted by Richard F. Tofel in ‘Restless Genius: Barney Kilgore, The Wall Street Journal, and the Invention of Modern Journalism,’ ‘Both ‘Wall Street’ (with its narrowly financial and Eastern connotations) and ‘Journal’ (evocative of magazines) were said to be problematic.'”

She continued: “This assessment came as Mr. Kilgore was in the midst of guiding The Journal to its stature as one of the nation’s leading newspapers. The names editors considered included World’s Work, The North American Journal and, um, Business Day, Mr. Tofel writes. (That last one has a familiar ring to it.) A former editorial page editor, William Grimes, suggested The National Journal. Kenneth Hogate, Mr. Kilgore’s boss at the time, wanted to call it Financial America.”

When Kilgore became editor and took control–Hogate, who liked the name change idea, had died– he dropped the subject which he didn’t think a good one, Tofel told Haughney.

What do you think of a name change for The Wall Street Journal? What do you think of name changes in general?


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